Later, she moved to Bengaluru to join an IT company. But the wanderlust in her refused to stay idle. So one day in 2015, the 28-year-old quit her job to hit the road. “I took a sabbatical of three months and rode through north and south India. After I got a taste of the freedom and independence that comes with biking, I could never go back to a desk job. I resigned and then went back on the road for four months.”
It was a tough couple of years as she did not have a job. But Louis was able to eventually blend her twin passions of touring and motorcycles to her advantage. Motorcycling is a fulltime job now and she spends 10 months a year on the road. “I am a professional biker and travel designer. I have led more than 40 customised biking group tours in India and abroad. I have biked to 14 countries and 5 continents.”
The highlight was a seven-month, 32,000 km solo ride across 22 states that she did in 2015 and 2016. She has just returned after an eightmonth ride from Benguluru to Sydney — a 29,000 km trip covering 10 countries.
She funds a large part of her travel through blogging, content creation, writing for motorsports magazines and by working as a motorcycle tour guide. Posting about her life on wheels takes up a lot of her time. “Tackling new challenges, new obstacles and new places are really part of my work,” she says.
But Louis still finds time to spread the love for biking. She uses social media platforms to mentor women who reach out with questions on travelling solo, riding and life on the road. “There are manyfrom India now who are breaking barriers and teaching more women to ride. We are all here to support one another so the community grows.”
Aishwarya Pissay, 24, completely agrees with Louis. Pissay, a Bengalurubased off-road biker and racer, also developed a love for biking while riding pillion with her father on road trips. Motorcycle racing is about skill and not gender, says Pissay, who started training for racing in 2015. “I gained visibility because of my riding and racing for the last five years. I now train women in different styles of racing.” In August, she became the first Indian woman to win the FIM Bajas World Cup.
Pissay schedules her training in advance so that she can manage her time and commitments better. “When I started riding motorcycles and racing, the interest of women in biking was still growing. I have seen it grow rapidly over the past five years. More women are riding motorcycles every day now on the roads and on the racetracks,” she says.
Neharika Yadav has also won many admirers because of her racing skills. The Gurgaon-based dental surgeon loves letting it rip on a racing track, often reaching 265 kmph. In fact, she was the sole woman racer in the national superbike championship for many years. She even won the championship at the Buddh International Circuit in November 2016.
She discovered her love for racing at the Buddh circuit in 2013 when she visited the racetrack with friends. Since then, she had gone on to ride at international races. “A lot of women write to me saying I have motivated them to pick up biking and seek advice on starting track racing.”
She agrees that she has an expensive hobby — such bikes can cost from Rs 2-20 lakh, or even more. But after establishing herself as a skilled racer, Yadav has managed to grow her social media presence and get endorsements from biking and sports companies. “I do a lot of influencer work on Instagram for some leading brands. These are well-paid gigs. Ducati has also been instrumental in supporting me as a factory racer,” adds the dentist.
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The niche but growing segment of women bikers is proving to be an important driver of growth for companies that make sports and heavy bikes in India. UK-based bike maker Triumph Motorcycles India, for example, recently announced special discounts on a range of riding gear made specifically for women. “We conduct a number of customer training programmes all year round where we promote participation from woman riders,” says Shoeb Farooq, general manager of Triumph Motorcycles India. “These help woman riders sharpen their riding skills and build confidence among them to ride big bikes.”
For off-roaders, the company organises several rides on challenging terrains such as Spiti Valley and Ladakh. It recently concluded Adventure Trails Zanskar, a combination of training and adventure riding. “A number of woman riders sign up for these rides to get a first-hand experience of riding in tough terrains. Our biggest strength has been our wide range of motorcycles which cater to all classes and style of riding and we have women bikers using bikes across our range,” adds Farooq.
Royal Enfield doesn’t have any gender-specific policy to reach out to women riders. But it has an 18-day Himalayan Odyssey Women’s Edition for riders who wish to explore the mountains. “The ride enables them to create a lifetime of experiences with adventure, exploration and camaraderie like no other,” says Subhranshu Singh, global head of marketing, Royal Enfield. It also sponsors marquee events where many women riders participate. “We conduct a special programme called STRE — She Travels on a Royal Enfield. This is to encourage women and to help them connect with each other,” adds Singh.
As a recognition of the growing interest for biking among women, the annual India Bike Week, which was held on December 6-7 in Goa, focused on the moto culture among women riders. Over 25% riders at the event were women. It featured various aspects of globe-trotting, adventure riding, motorsports, stunt riding and solo travel. “The festival opened with a lady riders’ parade and several panels put the spotlight on women achievers from the biking subculture,” says Martin Da Costa, festival director of bike week.
Sarika Mehta, 42, would easily fit the bill for a woman achiever. Unlike Bengaluru-based Louis, Surat-based Mehta had no early initiation into biking. But the practicing psychologist was an avid mountaineer. In 2014, a friend teased her that she would not be able to handle his heavy sports bike. A determined Mehta decided to teach herself motor biking. In 2016, she set up Biking Queens, a group for women bikers in Surat. Mehta has since then led several biking expeditions — notable among them are the 25,000 km Varanasi to London trip through three continents in 2019 and the 10, 000 km Surat-Khardung La pass journey across 15 states in 2017. Mehta led 50 women bikers in the 2017 trip.
She firmly believes in spreading the message of women’s empowerment and safety on the roads through biking. “Many of our biking events in India and overseas are social campaigns on women’s issues. In fact, I stay away from corporate-sponsored events and focus only on social issues,” s
ays Mehta, a mother of two who broke the glass ceiling in a conservative Gujarati family to start riding seven years ago.
Mehta’s husband, who runs a diamonds business, gave her the first lessons in biking on his Honda bike. He and their children — Tanushree, 14, and Janam, 11 — are always supportive of her passion, she adds. Mehta now owns a Triumph 675cc bike and has used various other heavy bikes for long distance rides, including KTM and BMW. “I indulge in my passion for adventure through offroad bike trips on rugged mountain terrain and one of my best trips have been to the Everest base camp,” she adds, referring to a section of her 2019 ride.
Teaching women to ride bikes gives a boost to their confidence and will also help them find more employment avenues, says Jai Bharathi, a Hyderabadbased freelance architect who has been riding heavy bikes for over a decade. In September-October, she completed a 17,380 km solo trip around the US on a Royal Enfield Interceptor 650.
“I’m committed to the cause of safe riding for women and have partnered with the local government to run an NGO focussed on teaching women in Hyderabad to ride two-wheelers so that they can be empowered and can find more employment opportunities,” says the 37-year-old, who is also the founder of Hyderabad’s only women’s biking group — Bikerni, Hyderabad chapter. Bikerni, an online group to support women bikers in India, was started by Pune biker Urvashi Patole in 2011. It is now the largest women’s biking group in India and has over 1,000 members.
While Bikerni empowers women, Maral Yazarloo-Pattrick empowered herself. Born in Iran, Yazarloo-Pattrick moved to Pune to do her MBA. Later, while working for a realty company in Mumbai, she fell in love with a Harley Davidson bike in a showroom while window-shopping. “Soon, I purchased the bike and was riding from Mumbai to Pune regularly,” says Yazarloo-Pattrick, 38. The vice-president of the real estate company during the week became a hard riding biker girl during weekends. Her high-profile corporate career helped to fund the expensive hobby.
“I became addicted to heavy bikes and was the first woman in India to own super bikes Ducati and BMW GS and have clocked top mileage among woman Harley Davidson riders in India,” says Delhi-based Yazarloo, who has now launched her own fashion label. She is also a motivational speaker and campaigner for women’s rights in Iran.
Yazarloo-Pattrick holds the world record among women for clocking the highest mileage on a super bike — over 250,000 km. In 2017, she set off on an audacious solo ride across 64 countries in 7 continents, riding more than 100,000 km — audacious because she had no backup team. But it paid off in more than one way — she met her husband Alexander William Pattrick during the tour. By the time she returned to India, she was five months pregnant. “I was single then but am now a responsible mother of a two-year-old. So I have cut down on my riding to weekends and to not more than 200 km per ride,” adds Yazarloo-Pattrick, always ready to share her experiences with fellow bikers.
For Ranjita Ravi, the road was lonely at first. She was the only woman biker who was trying to get a licence for geared motorcycles at Indiranagar in Bengaluru in 2006. The inspecting officer called her “biker amma” — a name that has stuck. “Motorcycles were always a fascination for me and represented freedom and escape so much more evocatively than a metal cage on four-wheels,” she says.
Along with her husband Prajwal Sabnis, she has biked on many routes around Bengaluru and Goa. “It is easy to see why there are so many bikers around Bangalore – we’re spoilt for choice,” she says.
Then Ravi and Sabnis decided to converge their love for bikes with their entrepreneurial dream and started Orxa Energies in 2015 to launch an electric motorcycle. “We were searching for an electric motorcycle that we wanted to ride but found none. And what better way to do so than build one ourselves,” says Ravi, who launched Orxa’s first EV, Mantis, at the India Bike Week.
“It is designed as a naked sports motorcycle that can have a top speed of 140+ kmph and a range of ~200 km per charge. We want the Mantis to be your perfect street bike,” she says.
It is now time to blaze an electric trail.
Biker Girls on Social
The woman biker makes video blogs such as “Can A Girl Service Her Bike At Home???” and “Periods Can’t Stop Me”.
She explores various places in Maharashtra on her Bajaj Avenger 150 or KTM 390.
Insta: 13.2K (@aratislife)
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Priyanka Kochhar is all about speed as most of her videos focus on superbikes. She has managed to make a career out of her two passions: motorcycles and modelling.
Insta: 430K (@bikewithgirl)
Popular known as the Hijabi Biker, she has become an icon for young girls in Delhi.
Besides participating in international stunts championship and vlogging, she also performs stunts
Insta: 51.7K (@anamhashim21)
Has set up The Alisha Abdullah Foundation — an initiative to train women racers and riders — to help more women get into the boys’ club
Insta: 106K (@alishaabdullah)
Founder of India’s first and largest women’s motorcycling association, Bikerni
Insta: 10.1K (@thealphabikerni)
BatPod, Hell Cycle & Moto-Terminator: Monstrous Bikes From Movies That Will Blow Your Mind
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Power And Torque
It’s usually the rider who defines a bike. But these superbikes from movies stretch our imagination from being conventional to unreal and beyond.